Artist Fellowships with Artist Input

A local foundation had long supported arts organizations. An artist board member proposed funding annual artist fellowships as a missing piece in the city's arts ecosystem. He organized several convenings of artists and professionals to build out an inclusive, high-impact fellowship program. Artists propose their "next step" artistically, not their next project, a crucial distinction for artists caught in cycles of project funding. Applicants can be emerging through established, and application and reporting requirements are streamlined. The fellowship panel is half artists, and the foundation continues to seek out feedback as the program evolves. The roster of its funded artists is a who's who of the city's artists, and fellowship recipients often travel and learn new skills, things that enrich the (sometimes insular) artist community.

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I work with Artists Artists Thrive Engaging with Artists

Artists Collaborate to Develop Programs

Artists collaborate in development of programmatic initiatives within a given framework as both students and mentors. With a new residency program in development, a fundamental curriculum of entrepreneurial skills and artist-centered focus topics is developed based on years of programmatic experience and relationships with business professionals and working artists throughout the field. However, a given portion of the focus topics are left TBD until the resident cohort is selected so that the curriculum can be tailor made to address the hopes and needs of the artists in the program.

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I work with Artists Artists Thrive Engaging with Artists

Authentic Feedback

Throughout 2016, Artist Trust worked to build feedback loops between the organization and artists we serve. In an effort to better understand the needs of individual artists in Washington State, we created a comprehensive survey that asked artists about their biggest successes, challenges, and what supports they need. The feedback received through this survey has informed AT's programming throughout the past year. This year, we have chosen to evolve the survey into a two-pronged data gathering & engagement strategy: an annual census survey and a project we are calling Institutionalizing Informal Conversations, in which we have developed a series of questions for our staff and board to ask artists in casual conversations at events and informal environments. We are collecting this information for storytelling and to gain deeper understanding of Washington's artists' needs.

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I work with Artists Artists Thrive Engaging with Artists

Artists Meet-n-Greet

Almost ten years ago now, we were taking a pivot to understand directly what we could do to help the artist community. We held an artist focus group with a really diverse group – old and young, black and white, Latinx, straight and gay. The artists helped us analyze, through a SWOT analysis format, what we could be doing for the community. We took the output of that meeting, put it into a survey, found every creative person in the region we could and invited them out to weigh in on what our agenda should be for the next several years. That’s led to the need for networking amongst colleagues and access to underutilized space, specifically in the urban core. That work has led to what became “Artists Meet-n-Greet” that started to draw upwards of five hundred artists per event. It turned into a combination of gallery collaborations, which has now turned into a roughly forty-venue, once-a-month bus loop that activates creative spaces, artist pop-up spaces and other businesses that want to engage in the arts.

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I work with Artists Artists Thrive Engaging with Artists

Craft at the Market

Every year we produce Craft at the Market, which is one of the state’s largest marketplaces for handmade and professional arts and crafts. It’s offered for three days each year, and it serves two different audiences. The first day is open only to wholesale buyers. Wholesale buyers of arts and crafts come from all across the country to make wholesale orders for their galleries. We also have corporate buyers who come to that event. Anyone who can represent a business or gallery – and we also have museums who come to acquire work for their collections on that day. Then the next two days the show is open to the general public. We have between 6,000 to 10,000 visitors over those two days. Who comes to the show ranges from year to year. This show features more than 150 artists showing original work. It also offers the opportunity for performing artists to perform over those two public days, live on our performance stage. It offers several exhibits: an exhibit of work by members of the architectural artists directory; and we always have an exhibit that is an open call for artists in the state that is adjudicated and usually themed. That exhibit includes between thirty or forty pieces.

In all, there are probably about 250 artists who participate in this event. With the exception of the exhibit that has the open call, the majority of the artists are participants in one of the arts council’s dedicated marketing programs – either the Crafted program, our performing artist directory program, or our architectural artist directory. So, that’s probably our largest event for artists that we work with here, but it’s also one of our most successful. In 2015 the economic impact of the market over three days in the city it was in was over $2,000,000.

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I work with Artists Artists Thrive Engaging with Artists

Makings of a Master

In our folk and traditional arts program, we have an exhibit called “Makings of a Master” which exhibits the work of master folk and traditional artists in the state. It also displays work that they have done with apprentices, who are funded through folk and traditional art apprenticeship grant that we solicit applications for each year. This exhibit travels, and it is updated fairly regularly as things progress and change. A great opportunity that we’ve done over the last couple of years is, when the exhibit moves to a new location, to a new community, we work with the gallery or the organization that’s hosting the exhibit to plan an event that showcases someone from the region – someone who is included in the exhibit or who is a master artist that practices a relevant art form. There is an opening night performance and gallery talk: those have been really well received and attended by people from all across the state. Those events also allow visitors to connect with certain folk communities that they may or may not have been aware of. It really provides an opportunity for them to recognize an artist as a master artist and to learn what that actually means. It’s a learning opportunity all the way around, because the artist gets to teach people not only about their art form and craft, but also what it means to be a master artist and further their art form in the commonwealth.

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I work with Artists Artists Thrive Engaging with Artists

Artists Cooperative Gallery

When I arrived here six and a half years ago we had the museum store, which was at that time, under our 501 c(3) support organization. And at that time it was a regular museum store with some artist work on consignment, but mostly gift items that had been purchased for sale at the store: mugs, and t-shirts, the standard typical stuff. A year later we converted it, under the foundation and with their blessing and cooperation, into an artists cooperative gallery. There’s a group of artists that run the store, the museum provides volunteers to handle the clerical work, the counter, and the cash register. But the co-op mounts the shows, juries artists in – all the artists are juried by a jury of their peers so you have to be accepted into the co-op. They have to be artists from the state. There is a maximum of sixty-six, but there’s certain numbers by discipline. So you rarely have the full number.

In addition to mounting the exhibitions and doing the jurying, there’s almost always a member of the co-op in the store when it’s open, demonstrating their work on site, so that the place now becomes an opportunity that represents everything we are about: we have a studio program; we have a museum; we have performances. Here are artists working on site. Their work is in the co-op. Each artist receives 70% of every sale. 20% goes to support our engagement and education programs, and 10% goes to the cost of administering the store. There is no paid staff. There is one small contracted payment for a bookkeeper and then everything else used to run the store is volunteer time, except for our staff support. It’s built a community of artists, that are all from the state, that know each other and are working together for the opportunity to connect with the public, to represent how the artist is at the heart of our work here.

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I work with Artists Artists Thrive Engaging with Artists

Improving Artists’ Financial Situation

It’s one thing when a large organization says, “We want to give grants to artists” and they award applicants with a check. The artists are rewarded for the quality of their art and the strength of their proposal. But the kind of relationship we have with artists requires a different level of trust: we are trying to understand their financial situation so that we can help them get to a better financial place. We’re trying to understand their business practice to help them get to a better place with how they run the business side of their art. That takes a high level of trust and that kind of trust is challenging to build in any circumstance, and especially challenging when you are at a distance from where the people you serve are living.

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I work with Artists Artists Survive Engaging with Artists

Artists Are...

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I work with Artists Artists Survive Engaging with Artists

Arts Festival with No Artist Engagement

A new performing arts festival launched with no artist leadership and without consulting artists. During the first season, there were extensive problems with production, communication, and marketing; many were "disastrous" from the artists' point of view. No effort was made to assess or post-mortem the first year's issues.

Unaware of the issues, and with no mechanism for assessment other than the festival's self-reporting, foundations continued funding the festival. Artists who attempted to communicate concerns to the festival and to funders were brushed off as complainers. Artists began to tell one another: stay away from this festival

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I work with Artists Artists Give Up Engaging with Artists

Workshops without Artist Input

After a months-long program hiatus and staff turnover, the new education manager attempted to solicit input from artists about their professional development needs using an online survey. Very few artists completed the short questionnaire and many responses were too broad to be of much use, so the education manager created a season of workshops without a strong sense of artists' perspectives. These workshops were severely under-attended, indicating the focus topics were not of interest or need for local artist community.

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I work with Artists Artists Give Up Engaging with Artists

Relentless Artist

An artist working in our city is very interested in green/blue infrastructure issues at the city and neighborhood level. This is tied into her creative work to recast fiber as an urban, sustainable and people of color practice. She was relentless in finding out the information about meetings (which are not transparently posted on the city's website), attended meetings and ultimately worked her way on to the task force. The task force now sees the benefit of including artists in their work - but there is no mechanism for this to become the norm for the way the city thinks about constituting its community taskforces, services, planning and departments across the board.

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I work with Artists Artists Give Up Engaging with Artists

Unsuccessful Open Studio Tour

Our most unsuccessful program was our attempt to give artists monies to create their own open studio tours in their own neighborhoods. They hated that idea. They really did not want to be responsible for organizing an open studio tour or for creating advertising materials and signage. They wanted somebody else to put a tour together that they could just pop into.

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I work with Artists Artists Give Up Engaging with Artists